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Default Netbooks (Acer Aspire One) revisited…

April 27th, 2009, 21:15
A quite a while back, I wrote a bunch of initial impressions on a new toy I'd bought — the Acer Aspire One netbook. It's been more than six months, so I thought some people might find an update interesting.

My previous narrative left off with my having tweaked it enough to restore it to the standard XFCE configuration, instead of the rather bastardized and severely crippled Linpus Linux that it arrived with. Unfortunately this borked the auto-update functionality, since it ended up a mix of Fedora packages with some Linpus packages, none of which were entirely compatible with the standard repositories. OTOH I had access to the full Linux desktop, which was nice.

First, I'm still using it. It has found its niche — I surf the Net on it while drinking my morning coffee or before going to sleep. When we did some home improvement and got out of the way for a while, I took it with me. It's usually with me when we travel. I take it to meetings, and take notes on it. I occasionally make presentations on it too, using OpenOffice. The one thing I don't do is play games on it, because it's such a rinky-dink little machine and there aren't that many cool Linux games anyway. I do have NetHack on it, but that's about it.

Things I (still) like:
* It's small, light, and robust — been dropped twice, never the worse for it.
* The keyboard is very nice to type on; every bit as good as the MacBook Pro I'm typing on now (old model; the new Chiclet keyboard is nicer).
* The trackpad works very nicely, once I got the gestures "in my spine" — tap to click, drag the right or bottom edge to scroll; only right-click needs one of the awkwardly-positioned buttons.
* It's silent.
* It boots fast, sleeps relatively fast, and wakes relatively fast.
* Programs start up very quickly (generally speaking).
* The screen is nice — crisp, contrasty, colors look good.

Things I like less:
* The desktop is an uncomfortable fit for the screen. It's very wide compared to its height, so I put the taskbar along the right edge; this regularly causes windows to end up "under" it, and dragging them back out is… well, a drag. Similarly, many of the XFCE utilities don't entirely fit the screen (the bottom of a window might be sliced out etc)
* Some of the XFCE utilities don't do anything, or work. Which is presumably why Acer chose to disable them.
* Firefox 3 stu-tt-t-ers on it, despite my best efforts at fixing the problems with it. Flash-heavy sites kill it stone dead.
* The XFCE desktop is… well, not the prettiest, nor the most ergonomic.
* The battery life isn't stellar. It's not so bad I can't use it untethered at all, but it is bad enough that I usually don't.

I just made a leap into the unknown, and am installing Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) Netbook Remix on it. I tried it a bit off the USB stick, and it appears to work like a charm; seems better in every way except boot-up speed, especially ergonomics, than the Bastard Linux that I had on it previously. If there's any interest, I'll report on how it shapes up, once I've got it working.
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Prime Junta

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